Tampa Bay - December 4, 2014 -
Who: Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa Bay, FL
Know thine enemy: Here’s what I wrote last time:
The Lightning are actually pretty good. Like “tied for the most points in the NHL” good.
They’re led by one of the best offenses in the game and hoooo boy, they are deep. Put it this way: vaunted rookie Jonathan Drouin has nine points in 18 games, putting him 11th on the team in scoring. If he were a Sabre, he’d be tied with Brian Gionta for fifth on the team.
Leading the way to the surprise of no one is Steven Stamkos with 15 goals, 29 points in 25 games this year. What is somewhat surprising is the sophomore effort of Tyler Johnson. Everyone expected Nathan MacKinnon to be the second-year player playing at a great pace, but Johnson’s 26 points in 25 games are hard to top in that category. They have a whopping 10 players with at least double-digit points and half a dozen guys with 20 or more.
On the back end, Ben Bishop isn’t have quite as dominant a year, but really, it’s more than getting the job done. He’s 15-3-2 with a 2.30 goals against average and .917 save percentage behind a much-improved Lightning defense. With Victor Hedman back, they’re only going to get better and better as they go.
About the Sabres: All hail King Jhonas. All hail King Jhonas.
But seriously, the Sabres would be nowhere near winning six in seven if it weren’t for the absolutely outstanding play of Enroth. He’s been lights out and looks flat out dominant in shootouts these days. Like, he’s so good he almost looks bored doing it.
Past that, the defense has played much better and you can see that tempo head coach Ted Nolan wants to play. The Sabres are learning to work harder and skate harder than anyone else because that’s what they have to do to stay in games these days.
The ride is going to end soon, but it’s been fun for the last seven games.
The last time these two met: Enroth stopped 26 of 27, Zemgus Girgensons continued his path towards “overwhelming fan favorite” with a late game-tying goal and the Sabres managed to win in a shootout, their sixth victory in seven tries.
The Tampa offense was quiet, but one has to think it’s just a matter of time before they catch the Sabres for a few quick ones.
The part where I predict things: While the Sabres are playing better, they’re still A.) giving up a ton of shots and B.) pretty inept offensively on the season. Not only that, but they’ll face Bishop this time out instead of the decrepit Evgeny Nabokov. Seriously, the fact that he has a job these days is mind boggling.
The team has been playing way above its head of late, but a little dose of reality comes back into the fold tonight.
Score: 4-2 Lightning
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